The Pluralism Index

Pluralism Index 2023: Israelis Want a Democratic and Jewish State

Findings from a comprehensive survey on pluralism in Israeli society.

By: Shmuel Rosner, Professor Camil Fuchs, Noah Slepkov.

Pluralism Index 2023: Israelis Want a Democratic and Jewish State

In light of the overwhelming support among Jews for Israel as a democratic state, as well as for Israel as a Jewish state, we also looked at how various groups in Israeli society perceive other groups with regard to this issue. Simply put: Does the right (in the Jewish sector) understand that the left also wants a Jewish Israel, and does the left understand that the right also wants a democratic Israel?

Our examination of the image each group has of the other was conducted as follows: Those at the political center or left (opponents of the current government) were asked: “It is sometimes claimed that the Israeli right considers it less important that Israel be a democratic state. To what extent do you agree with this assertion?” Likewise, those on the right were asked if they agreed that the Israeli left considers it less important that Israel be a Jewish state. The findings show how commonly the two poles underestimate the true feelings of the opposing camp. Nearly 80% of those on the Israeli right agreed (strongly or somewhat) that centrists and leftists consider it less important for Israel to be a Jewish state. Likewise, nearly 80% of those leaning left agreed (strongly or somewhat) that the right wing considers it less important for Israel to be a democratic state.

The following graph depicts the gap between image and reality. This gap attests to a high degree of polarization and the attribution of negative views to the opposing political camp – and an inability to identify common ground on the main components of the vision for Israel (both democracy and Judaism) among Israeli Jews. There is truth to the assertion that support for a democratic Israel on the right is slightly lower than on the left, and there is truth to the claim that support for a Jewish Israel on the left is lower than on the right. However, given the very high support levels for both components within the Jewish population as a whole, it appears that the image of the other side not sharing the full vision is inconsistent with reality.

When we look at the views of different subgroups within the camps (such as left-leaning secular or right-leaning Haredim), we find that the groups at the extremes have the most negative image of the opposing side – and that there is a significant gap between these groups and those at the center of the religiosity and the political scales. For example, there is a substantial disparity between “rightists” and those in the “center-right” camp regarding perceptions of center-left views. Eighty-eight percent of rightists feel that those in the center-left consider it less important for Israel to be a Jewish state, but among center-right voters the percentage drops to 62%. Still a majority, but less pronounced.

Similarly, 82% of secular-left respondents feel that right-wing Israelis consider it less important for Israel to be democratic, but when one looks at the views of the traditional not-so-religious (still supporters of the left) on the same question, the figure drops to 66%. A third of those on the left who are Traditional not-so-religious did not agree with the supposition that rightists are less interested in Israel as a democratic state.

We examined the reciprocal attitudes of Israelis from different camps with another question, that of how supporters and opponents of the government feel about each other. Before we look at the responses, it should be noted that the questionnaire was distributed and completed in January 2023, at a point when the confrontation over judicial reform was already present in the public discourse, but before it had reached full intensity. At that time, the largest subgroup of opposition supporters chose the phrase “very disappointed” to describe their feelings about the coalition voters (45%), while the largest subgroup of coalition voters chose the option “I respect them” to express their feelings about the opposition electorate (41%).